Having cast them aside in disgust, I've finally mustered the courage to look back over the prints, and I'm thinking now that it probably is an issue with film flatness. So, I'm going to give Ian's DIY glass negative carrier a try -- though it will probably be a week or so before I get the chance.
Thank you all very much for your helpful tips and suggestions!
Much good advice and some hints. If your negative is "popping" in the carrier it is best to make sure your are doing everything while it's popped from the heat. Of course keeping it flat is the best way and glass will do that. Some of us old slide projector people used to let the slide "pop" from heat before we would focus the projector. If you focused first the slide would just heat and pop out of focus. Your negatives could be doing the same think. Check the grain when first turned on and then a few minutes later. if you have a "popping" problem you'll know it. You also have to remember that your grain focuser in magnified at least 10X to 15X and you'll see grain with that and not in a normal size print. 16x20 from 35mm yes you'll see grain. 16x20 from 120 maybe not. Also, once you have things in-focus use your enlarger locks for the column if there is any. Your equipment is first rate and should not be the issue. I said "should not"! JohnW
Originally Posted by tsoved
Something is awfully wrong. B22 may not be the toughest enlarger ever made but it is a workhorse machine. I really doubt it's THAT unstable to cause blurry image by shaking that much.
I am suspecting your lens is sick.
Enlarger is just a machine to house lamp, condenser, and to keep light inside. I doubt your flim is popping because there is a condenser between lamp and the negs. If the alignment is off, you'd see sharp portion somewhere on your print. You indicated your problem is uniform. Dirty condenser isn't going to cause the problem you describe either as it is above your negs. It won't affect sharpness like you describe. Your likely problem is between your negative and the paper - which leaves lens.
If you want to try your setup with a new lens, I have a lens I can send to you. It's not a great lens but it'll be sufficient to check and make sure rest of your setup is fine. PM me with your address if you want to do this. You only pay for shipping from Florida.
Yes, diffraction starts the moment you stop down, but you need to take into account the lower contrast, less flat field, smaller image circle and increased aberration when using the lens wide open. The usual recommendation to stop down two or 3 stops provides the best compromise in most situations. Simple advice, well tested and proven.
Originally Posted by tsoved
Is the light path in your enlarger clean? Lamps, condensers, filters and diffusers can accumulate dust is storage, and stopping down increses the depth of field so that what you don't notice on focussing at f2.8 could easily affect the print at f8. So you could easily have a film of muck on surfaces you wouldn't even notice. I'm not saying that's a definitve cause, but it won't hurt to check it out.
Good luck and cheers,,